Charles Richardson and Christian Kerr’s analysis of the Labor
dominance of state politics has sparked an interesting debate. Here are some
reader responses.

Gary James writes:

I was interested in Charles Richardson’s and
Christian Kerr’s explanations of the dominance of the Labor Party at the state
and territory level, compared with their weakness at the national level. It
reminded me of something written by an academic commentator on politics and
voting at the time when Malcolm Fraser was prime minister. The commentator
wrote that people say they want prosperity, certainty and good services from
government and they think the Liberal Party is better at providing prosperity
and certainty, while the Labor Party is better at providing services. Applying
this to levels of government, the commentator wrote that voters’ preferences
would be met by the Liberal Party in government at the national level and the
Labor Party in government at the state or territory level. Of course, this is
what we have had for several years now and it has been reinforced with each
election over the period.

Cathy Bannister writes:
Charles Richardson must base everything he says
about everyone slightly to the left of Attila the Hun on some weird, cold war
stereotype. Take this quote: “One of the three exceptions is the ACT, the
only place where Labor can really be pleased with its federal performance
(probably because the locals equate a Labor government with
increased spending).” “Probably” is the key word here. Mr Richardson says
“probably” because he is guessing. You can only assume that he doesn’t actually know any real
Canberrans. He certainly hasn’t surveyed their opinions. He doesn’t even use the
highly subjective, but apparently fairly accurate, Hugh Mackay method of
chatting to people over cups of tea. The locals that I know have voted Labor in the last few
elections largely for three reasons: because they like Bob McMullin and Annette
Ellis; because Canberrans believe in social services, ie not increased
spending but better targeted spending; and, more than anything else, because
they don’t like the Liberal Party’s policies on asylum seekers and border

Mark Farrell writes:
I think the federal/state discrepancy in Labor support is a great
mystery, given that there has historically never been much
philosophical difference between state and federal parties. There are
some notable examples: eg Latham’s Tasmanian forests policy, Carr’s
support of nuclear power, various premiers’ disagreement with Beazley’s
tax cuts tactics. But they aren’t “election deciders.” On the whole,
state or federal, they’re all Labor, and they represent the same
things. Why voters vote one way at federal level and another at state
must therefore have little to do with policy.